Two days after the International Women’s Day, women came out in thousands in Nagpur on Friday to protest against caste-based violence and patriarchy. The massive women’s march, titled ‘Chalo Nagpur’, comprised women from marginalised groups like Adivasis, Muslims, Dalits, queer and disabled women and sex workers who protested against Hindutva.

The march began with a bike rally from Samvidhan Chowk, a prominent spot for protests and demonstrations in the city. After the bike rally, several performances and fiery speeches took place at the Indora Maidan.

“Today, individual freedoms are being stolen — we have come to raise our voice against this. We ask everyone fighting their own battles for dignity to come together, and join us,” said Delhi-based Dalit women’s rights activist Rajni Tilak, who is also one of the organisers of the event, reported The New Indian Express.

Another organiser and activist, Shabnam Hashmi, mentioned that this is not the only movement against patriarchy. She said, “This is the beginning of the revolution. There will be Chalo Ahmedabad, Chalo Hyderabad, Chalo Delhi as well.”

Among the prominent speakers was Dalit rights activist, Radhika Vemula, mother of deceased Rohit Vemula. She spoke about how Dalit activist and father of the Indian Constitution B.R. Ambedkar was an active speaker of women’s rights during his lifetime. Vemula has been at the centre of a controversy since her son committed suicide in January 2016. She is fighting against the central government to prove that her son is actually Dalit.

Vemula declared that she is going to run a month-long Dalit Swabhiman Rath Yatra, from March 14, through Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to spread awareness about the treatment of Dalits in the country.

There were also reference and conversations about how the queer community is treated with disrespect and ostracized in Indian society. Delhi-based activist Rituparna Borah spoke to the audience, “”Can someone like me — who is big, curly-haired, dark-skinned, tribal lesbian from the Northeast, and can’t speak Hindi very well — ever be ‘Bharat Mata’?”

The Nagpur march saw people from around the country get together to talk about their particular communities and raise their issues in order to start a dialogue about it. Shabina Mumtaz came from Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh to talk about Muslim groups. “We have to keep proving that we are true Indians. Why doesn’t any other community have to do this? When we ask for our rights, we are told to go to Pakistan,” she said.

The last time Nagpur saw such an uprising was in 1942 when 25,000 women came together to march against caste-based violence. Friday was also significant because it was the 120th death anniversary of Savitribai Phule. Phule, has been a leading name in the women’s fight against caste and conservative thinking through ages.

Picture Credit- New India Express